“Iftar is a personal affair of a Muslim, and the government is politicising it. If the government wants to show that it cares about minorities and communal harmony, then all ration card holders who are Below Poverty Line can be given dry fruits through the Public Distribution System.”
This has been the argument of activists up in arms against Chief Minister of Telangana K Chandrashekhar Rao's planned iftar party in Hyderabad on Friday.
Earlier this week, Deputy Chief Minister of Telangana Mahmood Ali had said at least 7,000 guests were expected to turn up at Hyderabad's Fateh Maidan for the iftar party KCR — as the chief minister is popularly known — will host on Friday evening, The NewsMinute reported. Besides food, the chief minister will also distribute clothes to 12 lakh people across the state at the iftar 400 masjids under the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and 400 other in the districts will host the same day.
KCR has been hosting iftar parties since 2015, spending several crores every year. For 2018-19, the state government allocated Rs 30 crore towards hosting iftar dinners and distributing clothes as Ramzan gifts, according to Telangana Today. India Today also reported that the chief minister's iftar party could cost at least Rs 66 crore.
The Telangana unit of the Socialist Party (India) on Monday said that under the guise of minority welfare, the state Legislative Assembly has allocated Rs 60 crore for the 'Dawat-e-Iftar' and Christmas feast for 2018-19. The general secretary of the organisation, Dr Lubna Sarwath, accused the administration of using funds of the Minority Welfare Department, which is meant for poor minorities, to host such extravagant events without a government order.
Activists plan to approach the High Court of Hyderabad on 8 June to urge the Telangana government to cancel the iftar dinner scheduled for the same evening. They had moved the high court on the same matter in June 2016.
The opposition to KCR's iftar comes amid news that President of India Ram Nath Kovind will not host the party at the Rashtrapati Bhavan this year, as has been the tradition for decades. His press secretary, Ashok Malik, said Kovind had "decided there would be no religious celebrations or observances in a public building such as Rashtrapati Bhavan on the taxpayer expense". "This is in keeping with the principles of a secular state and applies to all religious occasions, irrespective of religion," he had said.
Political iftars are believed to date back to the tenure of Jawaharlal Nehru as prime minister, when he hosted his Muslim colleagues and other politicians every year at the office of the Congress. While the tradition was stopped when Lal Bahadur Shastri took over as the prime minister, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister HN Bahuguna revived it in the 1970s after pitching the idea to the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi. The tradition was carried on several prime ministers, including Chandra Shekhar, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, but incumbent Narendra Modi decided not to host iftar parties at the prime minister’s residence in 2015. Since then, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been hosting these dinners across the country.
Political iftars, unsurprisingly, have been seen as an attempt at minority appeasement, to attract Muslim voters. But this year, the trend seems to have died down, with neither the BJP-led government nor the Opposition having hosted any iftars so far in Delhi.
Updated Date: Jun 08, 2018 12:47 PM